Master Lever Hearing at State House this Tuesday!

Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing
Master Lever Legislation
Tuesday, April 8
at 4:30 PM in room 313 of the State House

On Tuesday, please visit the State House and express your opposition to the master lever.

“This is our opportunity to send a strong and clear message to the General Assembly that Rhode Island must eliminate this broken voting mechanism. The master lever is undemocratic, confusing, and has no place on a 21st century ballot.

We need as many Rhode Islanders as possible to testify. We need our collective voice to be as loud as it can be. Let’s make this our year  – the master lever must go!”, wrote Ken Block, a candidate for RI Governor, in a recent email to CCA.

The master lever, straight-ticket, or straight-party line on the Rhode Island election ballot is an anachronism that needs to go away. It encourages uninformed votes for local candidates.

When RI had mechanical voting machines you literally pulled a master lever for a political party and all individual levers for candidates for that political party from President down to local School Committee moved to cast your vote. You could see this happen and if you wanted to mix up your vote with other parties or independents you could go through the ballot and adjust the individual levers. When we went to paper ballots and optical scanners in 1998, the master lever remained as a party choice on the ballot. Voters can still vote a straight party ticket with just one stroke of the pen, but they can no longer see the results of that choice.

In the November 2012 general election in Charlestown, there were 343 straight party votes cast for the Democrat choice, 207 straight party Republican votes and 54 Moderate Party straight party votes. There is no straight party choice available for Independents.

In 2012 there were only Democrats and Independents running in the local races in Charlestown, the only possible beneficiaries of the accidental voting that the straight party lever can cause were those candidates running as Democrats. The unknown is how many of those who pulled the straight party lever intended to vote in local races at all. Were these straight party voters familiar with all of the candidates running for local office?

We think there shouldn’t be accidents and unknowns in voting. The straight party choice should have never remained when we abandoned the mechanical voting booth. Lets do what we can to eliminate accidental voting, please sign the petition, attend Tuesday’s hearing at the State House, and support other ideas to remove the effect of the straight party vote.

Most candidates for Governor and majorities in the House and State Senate agree that the Master Lever should be abolished, but year after year the legislation has not been allowed to the floor for a vote. We hope this year will be different.